Tuesday, March 1, 2011

War memory and history - March 3

As you can see from the above photo, Japanese ignorance of WWII history crossed cultures this week. Appearing on Japan's MTV, the counter-culture band Kishidan offended everyone but their intended audience of the Japanese establishment. The Sony execs in charge of the boy band neglected the fact that Japanese pop culture is global and that some "cultural" borrowing is just plain offensive.

The band usually wears stylized Japanese school boy uniforms.  As these are based on Prussian army uniforms, the Sony stylists may have thought they were merely "modernizing" the band's attire with the Third Reich. Then again, they might not have been thinking at all.

Simon Wiesenthal Center is asking Sony for an explanation, an apology, and a change of clothes for Kishidan. And it appears that the apology was delivered on March 2nd.

. 3/3, 2:30-5:30pm, Berkeley, CA. Sponsor: Center for Japanese Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Speakers: Steven Vogel, Director, Center for Japanese Studies, University of California, Berkeley; Mitsuhiro Fujimaki, Center for Global Studies, University of Shizuoka; Takahito Sawada, Center for Global Studies, University of Shizuoka; Charles Burress, Journalist; Kerry Shannon, Asian Studies, UC Berkeley; Keiko Yamanaka, Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley.

Mitsuhiro Fujimaki, Center for Global Studies, University of Shizuoka
On Visibility of National Trauma at Pearl Harbor: Film Representation of Sinking Vessels and Bombs at the New Visitor Center Museum.

Takahito Sawada, Center for Global Studies, University of Shizuoka
A Frontline for War Memory in Northern Australia: Expanding Traumatic Surveillance over Imaginary Enemies and Transforming National History after the Pacific War.

Charles Burress, Journalist
Can the Messenger Be Trusted? The Press and East Asia’s Memory Wars.

Memory has been a critical term for criticism and cultural studies/postcolonialism the past twenty years. Some memory has transgressed borders inciting controversy between nations and peoples, while others remain insulated in their places of origin. Why has this happened?

These days, history is often conflated with memory, though these two related phenomena are far from synonymous. At centers of memory, such as museums and monuments, personal memoirs and other documents inform the production of history. This trend is as if history almost takes over memory in the name of history.

Further, the construction of popular memory often results from the selective amalgamation of a number of diverse histories. In this context, this workshop pays attention to the ongoing trend at places of memory and reconsiders possibilities of “memory” as a recalcitrant agency to seamless historical orchestration.

GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY AND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY. 3/3, Noon-1:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: American Institute for Contemporary German Studies. Speaker: Prof. Dr. Michael Brenner, Professor of Jewish History and Culture at the University of Munich, DAAD/AICGS Fellow.

In 1949, John J. McCloy, the U.S. Military Governor (and later High Commissioner) in Germany, stated at a conference in Heidelberg on the future of the Jews in Germany that the successful integration of Jews in a democratic Germany served as a litmus test for the new Bundesrepublik: "What this [the Jewish] community will be, how it forms itself, how it becomes a part and how it merges with the new Germany, will, I believe be watched very closely and very carefully by the entire world. It will, in my judgment, be one of the real touchstones and the test of Germany's progress towards the light."

More than fifty years later Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer touched on a similar theme when he said: "An important measurement of our capacity to be an open and tolerant society is the presence of Jewish communities in Germany. The question of whether Jews feel safe in our country speaks to the basic issue of the credibility of our democracy." Every German government has understood that the existence of a Jewish community in Germany was essential to positive international recognition. Thus, from the 1950s on, the Central Council of Jews in Germany and individual representatives of the Jewish community became part of the overall attempts to show the world that Germany was making efforts towards reconciliation and honoring its past. This lecture will analyze the role the Jewish past and the small contemporary Jewish community played in the foreign policy of the two German states before 1989, and to a smaller extent of unified Germany.

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